By Jessie Taylor
Local Government Elections
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has unveiled the new devices that will run this year’s local government election. The new technology will replace machines used by the IEC for the last 20 years.
The mobile devices will offer election officials a more efficient way to capture and verify voter data and increase security features to ensure voters can only cast their ballot once, the IEC has said.
An integrated management tool
The IEC has purchased around 40 000 new voter management devices, at a cost of around R500-million, to offer an integrated and online way to manage the elections. The devices are essentially rugged tablets, which run the four apps needed to ensure the elections take place on 1 November 2021.
The tablets will integrate with the IEC’s management system and will replace the Zip Zip machines, which the IEC has used for over 20 years. The Zip Zip machines have been used to scan people’s identity documents at voting stations since 1998.
“The IEC’s approach used to date, that of scanning an identity document and recording the data, is now outdated and inadequate for future purposes. The Electoral Commission intends to harness advances in appropriate technology and apply them in this solution,” said IEC Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo.
Mr Mamabolo says the move to a more technologically advanced system will eliminate several steps in the voting process. With the devices, election officials will be able to scan ID barcodes and check addresses in one transaction at the voting station.
Mr Mamabolo explained that voter management devices are connected to the internet, but where the signal is weak or non-existent, the information is stored and uploaded when the device is in contact with a strong internet signal.
As soon as the device gets into an area of signal, it will automatically and without prompting upload the transactions stored to the device’s memory.
“Voter management devices will enable almost instantaneous citizenship verification as well as the correct capturing of the residential address, assisted by a mapping functionality which is built into the apps on the device. Registration applications have been loaded and at least one voter management device has been allocated to each voting station on the logistics voting system,” says Mr Mamabolo.
The new devices will allow the IEC to carry out live verification against the national population register, among other functions. The portable devices will be used to support the process of voter registration and to manage the voters’ roll on voting day.
On voting day, the device will be used to check one’s voting status and then allow access to the voting station if one is registered in the correct district. Because the device tracks this data live, this will offer the added security benefit of preventing anyone from voting twice, the Commission said.
The voter management devices were put through their paces for the first time during voter registration on 18 and 19 September 2021.
The ICE saw more than 60 000 people register over the weekend, with only a few glitches experienced in the voter management devices at more than 23 000 voter stations.
At least one device has been allocated to each voting station.
The glitches were primarily a result of a high turnout, which led to pressure on the information technology system, the Commission said.
At these stations, voter details were logged in pen on paper temporality while the system was offline. However, by the second day of registration, these glitches had been addressed.
The IEC also released a new Online Voter Registration Service this year. The service allows voters to register, update their current voter information, view their current address, request a special vote, find a voting location and view important election dates.
By the end of the weekend, 627 305 people had registered. A further 39 519 had registered on the IEC’s online portal.
Not only will the devices allow for a faster registration and voting process, they will also allow for a more streamlined recording process. Live record keeping will, in turn, allow the IEC stricter control measures to ensure voters do not vote more than once.
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